Every generation is unlike the one before it. We were raised in a different time than our children, by different people with different cultural imperatives. Thirty five years ago, life was nothing like today. It was the late 1970’s—no cell phones, no email, no smartphones, and we were coming out of a deep recession (actually pretty close to today!). There were fewer two working families, fewer single parent families, and life was simpler and slower.
Now the blended family, of mine, yours, and ours is commonplace. But how to manage these changes is not. Our understanding of child development keeps evolving. Educational philosophies wax and wane. When I was kid, September was the cut off for kindergarten. Now it is getting later (December) every year. Educators want children to be older before they start school.
When I was a youngster, children were to be seen but not heard. Many parents believed—“Spare the rod, spoil the child”. Kids didn’t have so many toys, because parents were less affluent and didn’t have access to credit cards. Kids had to entertain themselves (and we did!) and there weren’t any electronic toys. And children had fewer choices. We didn’t get to decide where we going to eat or what we were going to eat. Whatever Mom made, we ate, without a complaint.
I don’t want to say that those were the good old days. There were both good and bad elements of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. I don’t think parents were as self-conscious about parenting as we are today. Perhaps that wasn’t so bad.
But today, as a parent, you have to craft your own philosophy. I am sure it includes some elements of what your parents did, and probably something different too. And what’s more, your parenting approach will change as your child moves through different stages of their childhood. How you parent a 2 year old is completely different than effective parenting strategies for a 6, 10, or 15 year old. And, it can change as you learn from your own experience.
We are also influenced by what we read, what we observe, and what we learn from friends and family. And, we are influenced by “the times” we live in, which is often something that we feel, but can’t see clearly.
Here are some of my thoughts on developing your own personal parenting philosophy:
Whatever you do—be consistent and predictable. This is one of the biggest problems I see today. No sometimes means no, but can easily turn into a yes. This confuses children and makes them nervous.
You are going to make mistakes, at every stage of your child’s development. Yeah, that’s a fact—get used to it and don’t be afraid to mess up. Just like your kids are going to have a lot of skinned knees: so will you. It comes with the territory—but it is important to admit your mistakes. It will teach your kids to do the same.
Be the person you want your kids to be. This is so hard! It is so much easier to tell your kids what to do, than to do it yourself. But those monkeys see and then do—so be thoughtful about how you behave.
Read parenting books, but don’t overdo it. You can drive yourself nuts by taking in too much information, advice, strategies, and approaches. You can forget about your own inner wisdom—Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famous baby doctor (I met him on several occasions in the 60’s) always said “Trust yourself—you know a lot more than you think”. These are still words of wisdom for today.
What is your parenting philosophy? Share with the Family Talk community.